Household Pests: daddy longlegs

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on January 16, 2023
4 min read

Daddy longlegs are a common pest in many homes and outdoor environments, sometimes referred to as a cellar spider, despite not being a spider at all. You’ve probably noticed them lurking around your home, hiding in corners or crawling across the ceiling. 

You may have assumed these creatures to be just another pesky and annoying spider. It may come as a surprise to discover that daddy longlegs aren’t actually spiders at all, but something entirely different.

So, what are daddy longlegs, what do daddy longlegs do, what do daddy longlegs look like, and are daddy longlegs dangerous?

Daddy longlegs are arachnids. They are also known as the harvestman. Though they closely resemble spiders, they are actually quite different. Two factors that set them apart from spiders are a lack of silk production and a lack of venom. Physically, they also only have two eyes, whereas spiders have six to eight eyes.

Daddy longlegs belong to the family Opiliones which includes several different species. The name daddy longlegs comes from their small form and long legs, while the name harvestman comes from the fact that they are often seen in large numbers around harvest time during the autumn months.

What Do Daddy Longlegs Look Like?

Daddy longlegs have a similar structure to spiders, which is why they’re often mistaken for the latter. They have a small oval body and eight legs. Unlike spiders, they have no spinnerets, meaning they cannot make silk or webs. daddy longlegs also have no fangs, which spiders do. 

Daddy longlegs have mouths similar to crabs and scorpions. Their mouths allow them to hold and destroy prey while eating. They produce a strong odor that helps protect themselves from predators. 

Daddy longlegs grow to be around 1/16-1/2 inches long. They have oval-shaped bodies and, as their name suggests, long legs. Their legs are fragile and can break easily. Similar to how reptiles break off their tails, daddy longlegs sometimes break their own legs off to escape predators.

What Do Daddy Longlegs Do?

Daddy longlegs are beneficial to the environment. They prey and scavenge on other pests. daddy longlegs cause no harm to structures or to the people inhabiting them. Unfortunately, some people fear daddy longlegs because they’ve heard myths about them being poisonous. However, this is untrue.

If you're wondering what daddy longlegs eat, daddy longlegs rely on cues from the sensory hairs on their legs and other sensations to detect nearby prey. Since daddy longlegs have no venom to infect their prey with, they use their mouthpieces to grasp onto and tear prey apart. daddy longlegs favor soft-bodied prey and don’t care if they’re alive or dead when they feast on them. They consume many arthropod species, including grasshoppers, beetle larvae, mites, caterpillars, and slugs. Some may even consume pollen. 

Daddy Longlegs Life Cycle

Female daddy longlegs produce eggs throughout autumn, typically in the soil, under stones, and inside cracks in wooden structures or trees. The eggs rest throughout autumn and winter before hatching in spring. Northern daddy longlegs have a life expectancy of only a year, whereas daddy longlegs found in South Carolina and other southeastern states can survive up to two years. 

Many daddy longlegs mate to reproduce. However, females from some species can produce young without their male counterparts. Once hatched from their eggs, daddy longlegs start molting and go through several molts before becoming adults.

If you’ve wondered, “are daddy longlegs dangerous?”, or "Are daddy longlegs poisonous?" the short answer is no. However, many release defensive secretions as a defensive mechanism, which can be toxic when ingested by smaller animals. Otherwise, daddy longlegs are generally safe. 

Are Daddy Longlegs Poisonous? 

Many people have heard the myth about daddy longlegs being one of the most poisonous spiders in the world. The myth states that, though these spiders are poisonous, their fangs are too small to penetrate the human skin, so they don’t pose any real threat to humans. However, the myth is wrong on many counts. First, daddy longlegs aren’t spiders. Secondly, they aren’t the most poisonous creature in the world. In fact, they aren’t poisonous at all. They lack any venom-producing tactics, making them completely harmless to humans.

Do Daddy Longlegs Bite?

So, daddy longlegs aren't poisonous, but do daddy longlegs bite? 

Daddy longlegs don’t have the normal fangs you would see on a spider. It’s still possible for them to bite, though it’s rare for that to happen. When it does, the bite is usually small and poses no risk. However, if you suspect that you’ve been bitten by a daddy longlegs, a spider, or some other type of insect, and notice a reaction, it’s important to seek advice from your doctor.

You’ll rarely find a daddy longlegs inside your home, though it can happen. Mostly, these creatures are found in unfinished basements, damp crawl spaces, and inside garages. Throughout autumn, daddy longlegs tend to congregate in large clusters, and you may find several of them loafing around your home’s exterior or even on the inside in places like your basement and attic. They also favor places like eves and windows.

If you're wondering how to get rid of daddy longlegs, you may use insecticide sprays meant for exterior use on spiders. Alternatively, you may also use a broom or vacuum to get rid of daddy longlegs.